Federation Steps Up Campaign Protecting Panamanian Workers (8/11)


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The SIU-affiliated International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has issued the following news release, dated August 10, and accompanying photo at the top of this post. The photo shows ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton (fourth from left) handing over a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) to ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the ITF congress in Sofia, Bulgaria.


Participants in the ITF meetings include SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel (who chairs the federation’s Seafarers’ Section), SIU Port Agent Tracey Mayhew, and AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan.


Campaign for justice for Panama Canal workers


The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) has ramped up its campaign against the Panama Canal Authority over its ongoing failure to provide decent pay and safe working conditions for more than 9,000 affiliated maritime workers in the canal zone.


The 44-mile canal is currently undergoing a $5.25 billion redevelopment, which will see the addition of two new locks and two new channels.


Representatives from four Panamanian unions, accompanied by ITF leadership, today met with International Labor Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder at the ITF congress in Sofia, Bulgaria.


The ITF leadership, together with the Panamanian unions, submitted an application to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) against the Government of Panama.


They allege violation of Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining by the Panama Canal Authority.


Unions allege the Panama Canal Authority has failed to adequately recognize:


-- An appropriate level of respect to labor regulations;


-- Decisions by the National Labor Relations Board;


-- Compensatory guarantees considering the uniqueness of the Panama Canal working conditions;


-- Good faith collective bargaining; and 


-- ILO freedom of association principles.


ITF President Paddy Crumlin said the ITF will continue to put forward the best interests of workers.


“Panama is now a major transport, logistical and financial hub, yet despite several meetings the Panama Canal Authority refuses to budge,” Mr. Crumlin said. “The ITF is very concerned about the lack of proper respect and bargaining on issues surrounding health and safety provision on the job and workers being forced to undertake double shifts and 18-hour workdays.


This has an unacceptable impact on safety and there are also concerns around pay, training and freedom of association,” he continued. “That’s why we’ve taken the step to submit an application to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association against the Government of Panama.”


The ILO set up the CFA for the purpose of examining complaints about violations of freedom of association, whether or not the country concerned has ratified the relevant conventions. 


Complaints may be brought against a member state by employers’ and workers’ organizations.


“It is important for the Panamanian workers to know that the entire ITF congress is behind them and we will fight for better rights and conditions," ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton said. “Freedom of association and collective bargaining are among the founding principles of the ILO and we hope our intervention leads to an improvement in working conditions for the Panama Canal workers.”


An ITF video on the dispute can be found at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5BQo2riqvg


The 43rd ITF congress in Sofia brings together almost 2,000 participants from 379 unions in 116 countries.


News about the congress is available at www.itfcongress2014.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ITFglobal and Twitter at https://twitter.com/itfglobalunion (hashtag is #ITFcongress2014).




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